WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. David Norman says Catholics do not accept the fundamentalist teaching on the rapture.
The righteous live forever with the risen Christ, and it is the hope of the Church that all will be raised to life everlasting.
This was a central theme of Franciscan Father David Norman's talk, From Here to Eternity.
Norman, a systematic theologian at Newman Theological College, teaches courses about the resurrection of the body.
On June 5, he gave the final talk in a seven-part series on the Nicene Creed that was coordinated by the Edmonton Archdiocese's Office of Catechesis.
The Nicene Creed concludes with the statement, "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."
"If we go to Scripture and try to find something on the resurrection of the body, there is only one indisputable text that refers to resurrection. That can be found in Daniel 12.2-3," Norman said.
"It's a wonderful text. It shows light, it shows life and this whole notion of rising again from the dust and experiencing a life that lasts forever."
Those attending the session explored some topics such as how they imagined life after death, whether they had experienced anything that made them feel more at ease or less at ease with the prospect of death, what they thought of the rapture, and how they envisioned the end of the world.
Norman said the resurrection of the dead has been a non-negotiable component of the Catholic faith. Christianity does not exist if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and later appeared to his disciples.
"The resurrection of the dead is the centre of our faith. There is no faith without the resurrection of the dead Christ. It's through his resurrection that we share in his life," said Norman.
He continued, "We don't just believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We also believe that we rise with Jesus. The two go together."
There is more to resurrection from the dead than resuscitation. It is the focal point of Christianity because of what it means for humanity. Rather than perishing after death, baptized Christians live on because they have gone down into the abyss with Jesus. Christians become divinized through Baptism.
At every Easter Vigil, Romans 6.3-11 is proclaimed. Norman said if there is one text that represents the centre of our faith, this is it.
The reading says no one experiences eternal life without first experiencing death. Just as Jesus was not bound by the chains of death, baptized Christians aren't either.
Adam sinned and was disobedient. He turned from God and walked his own corrupt path. Once Moses received the law, sin began to manifest even more so. Jesus took away the enslavement to sin.
"Jesus, taking care of everything, became the new Adam, the one who should have lived forever but did not. Now in Jesus we have someone who does live forever," said Norman.
Everyone is ordained to die. How exactly one rises from the dead is unknown, but what we do know is that when we rise from the dead, we will rise with a spiritual, imperishable body.
Norman said we radiate the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces. Imbued with the spirit of Christ, we reflect Christ to others, in much the same way a mirror reflects our own image to us.
The rapture is a term used in 1 Thessalonians 4.14-17. Some fundamentalist Christians believe one group of people will be left behind while another group literally leaves the Earth to meet the Lord in the air. This phenomenon is fictionalized in the 16-book series Left Behind.
Norman said there is no rapture in that sense. Catholics believe in a rapture only in the sense of a general final resurrection, when Jesus returns.